Interview with the Author of “Cult Survivor”

Cult Survivor by Chrystal Cole is the latest exCS memoir now available from Amazon. The ExCS site sat down with Chrystal to talk about her new book and why she is speaking up. ExChristianScience.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, this post contains affiliate links.


Chrystal was born a fourth generation Christian Scientist. She believed in the belief system for 42 years, even as all of her friends left it. She and had a lifelong dream of one day being a Christian Science practitioner, which she achieved. In ‘the practice’, all she found was ‘Crosses’ and no ‘Crowns’. This eBook shares her journey from childhood to parenthood and leaving the dangerous cult. Chrystal finally found a sense of peace when she turned her back on Christian Science and walked away. Her extended family is still in the religion, and she uses a pseudonym to protect their anonymity.


ExCS: What inspired you to write “Cult Survivor”?

Chrystal:

I think it was a series of things. When I first joined the Ex Christian Science Facebook group, people kept asking me: “Wow, you were a practitioner and now you’re an Ex Christian Scientist? How did you do that? What’s your story?”

I was getting the same question at my Quaker Meeting – “What was your spiritual journey that you were so devoted to Christian Science but now you’ve decided it’s not for you? How did you decide to become Quaker?”

And other people just kept asking me, in general, “what does it mean to be a Quaker?”

So I started thinking about my journey. I have this idea that I want to turn everything into a simple “Elevator Speech.” Meaning, turn it into a story that lasts about 40 seconds and covers the basics, so that it can be completely told during an elevator ride.

Well, I kept thinking how my story really cannot be told in an elevator speech. It needed to be told with all the complexity. I mean, it’s a 40+ year journey. It’s not simple like, “I grew up in Christian Science, discovered the Quaker Path and then switched because I liked it better. Oh, and PS: I was caught in 2 measles outbreaks.” It’s so much more than that.

Leaving Christian Science, for me, brought on a whole host of other changes. My dad’s death helped me clearly realize that Christian Science is NOT a science. Science says “gravity works because like attracts like. Gravity works because of centripetal force.” And things like that. Gravity doesn’t suddenly stop working because someone didn’t believe it correctly enough.

My dad was a good man, worthy of having a good, productive and healthy life. He prayed and believed in God all the time! He believed that he would have a Christian Science healing, right until he closed his eyes into the coma from which he never awoke. If anyone was worthy of a healing, it was my dad. Everyone loved him. This whole process showed me with absolute clarity that Christian Science does NOT work. It’s NOT a real science.

Christian Science does NOT work. It’s NOT a real science.

In order for me to process this new way of looking at the world, I needed to write my thoughts down. Writing helped me process all this information intellectually and emotionally. I needed to do this for my own journey towards mental health.

It took me months to write this story, and the whole time I was still striving to make it “Quaker Simple.”

 

ExCS: Has having family still “in” Christian Science impacted your decision to share your story?

Chrystal:

Absolutely. I worry every day that they will find the Ex-Christian Science blog and read any of the posts and realize it’s me, telling my story, and they will identify so much with enough of it (we all knew my dad, for instance), and then call me up and yell at me, and then turn their back on me.

I worry every day that they will find my book now, on Amazon, and that the Christian Science Committee on Publication will send out a letter to Reading Rooms and state Committees on Publication (these are individuals inside the church organization who do everything in their power to shut down publications that come out and say “Christian Science is bad.”

I worry that the letters will say, “let’s get on a mission to destroy this book, and its author” or something like that.

I am not sure that there will be any time where my family will like hearing that I wrote this book. If they come across it while they are still in Christian Science, I hope they will do what I did when I was a Christian Scientist, serving in my local Reading Room and in the mail came the book, “fathermothergod” by Lucia Greenhouse. I just ignored it and called my Practitioner to tell him how proud I was for not reading “an obnoxious book.”

Obnoxious Books. Sect. 12. A member of this Church shall not patronize a publishing house or bookstore that has for sale obnoxious books.  

The Manual of The Mother Church, Article VIII, Mary Baker Eddy

I wish I had read “fathermothergod” all those years ago when I saw it come to my Reading Room. I sure wanted to. With a title like that, I knew with absolute certainty that the author came from inside the Christian Science church. Someone from outside the church wouldn’t have come up with a great title like that.

So, to answer your question again, yes. I am afraid to share my story because my family is decidedly IN the religion. They talk to me about some aspect of Christian Science regularly. One even said to me, “it hurts me when you talk negatively about Christian Science, the religion I love so much.”

You know, the last thing I would ever want to do is hurt anyone. I love my family. I work so hard to make people feel safe around me. But I am also passionate about safety. I have seen too many die this year alone, thanks to being lifelong believers in Christian Science.

If something is a safety issue: I speak up. I have to. Something inside me tells me: Speak Up!

Being in Christian Science to the absolute exclusion of mental and physical health care is dangerous! I have seen so many people die and heard of so many people who die these horrible, tragic, unnecessary deaths! I feel like my own version of Rosa Parks – I’m tired of hearing about these deaths. Or the cripplings. The scars people have from their “love of Christian Science.” It’s a dangerous belief system and needs to be brought down.

 

ExCS: One of the most common critiques we (the ExCS site) get is a variation of “that is not Christian Science,” “that is not my experience with CS,” and “they are not practicing CS correctly and/or are taking things to an extreme.” Have you had push back from CS-sympathisers? What would you say to those who say you were doing CS all wrong?

Chrystal:

You know what? If ANYONE knew Christian Science, it was me. Mary Baker Eddy wrote: “follow me only so far as I follow Jesus.” So I took that to mean that I should hold Jesus up as my highest example of Christian Science. Jesus turned to The Bible, such as it was, when he was preaching. So I turned to The Bible for everything.

I mean, I loved Christian Science. I was active with my Association. I knew all the stories to tell people and I knew they were having healings. I loved playing “the opposites game.” I do believe I actually understood all the contradictions. It made sense to me.

When I first got to the Ex Christian Science Facebook group, people kept writing that Christian Science is so full of contradictions. I didn’t see it. I was so bewildered by this comment. And it came up frequently! I finally threw up my hands and asked the group for examples

That’s when I think I finally started seeing through the illusion that Christian Science is a worthy practice for spirituality. I realized there ARE contradictions. There are so many contradictions!

No matter the topic of conversation, I could draw on a Bible story to share that would help elevate people’s thoughts. I had a story of when I was short on oil and was trying to bake a cake for my son’s birthday party. I upended two bottles of vegetable oil as they went “drip… drip … drip… drip…” in to the measuring cup. And I looked up and prayed. It sounded so much like that story, for me, of the woman who needed oil and said the words, “bring me yet another vessel.” My oil came out to be the perfect amount I needed. I thought about this story – the woman who had all that she needed, right there with her and didn’t need to go looking for more.

I dove in with all my heart deeply and sincerely into Christian Science. Christian Science consumed my every thought. I understood all the contradictions and gave away copies of “Science and Health” like they were ice cream on a hot summer day.

I believed that I had healings 500 times per day, because I had been taught, “every time we change a thought from a bad thought to a good thought, that’s a healing!” I believed it hook, line and sinker. I had a few friends who would wait with baited breath on my every word as I explained how a Bible story was still relevant today. I went to Association every year, without fail.

I had been taught, “every time we change a thought
from a bad thought to a good thought, that’s a healing!”

My ex Christian Science Teacher had me doing things for Association in a prominent way. One time, we did a skit and I was given the task of being “The Voice of God” over the microphone. I couldn’t make this stuff up. I felt so honored to have been asked to be “The Voice  of God.” Another time, I was reading the part of the apostle Andrew. My Teacher told me, “so many people started crying, you were so good at that role.”

Believe me, I fervently believed Christian Science and loved every moment of it. I loved being different from everyone else. I loved feeling like “I have the toolbox and can heal the entire world!”

I used to also have that “holier than thou” expression on my face when someone left Christian Science, like my own bio mom, for instance, who dropped out of the Christian Science nursing program before I was born. “She just never understood it,” I’d been taught. Well, I wasn’t going to be a loser like that. I was going to be Journal Listed as a Practitioner and really UNDERSTAND IT. And: I did. I understood it. I didn’t see any contradictions in Christian Science when I was in it. I was thoroughly brainwashed at that point in my life.

I didn’t see any contradictions in Christian Science. I was thoroughly brainwashed.

It took a LOT to propel me out of the belief system. Once I was out, I started learning other very painful, hard to read stories of other people who had gotten out much sooner than I had. And, those stories helped me uncover how much junk was in my head. Other folks’ life experiences showed me how brainwashed I had been.

I was so unhappy in Christian Science as time wore on. I was deeply unhappy. If Heaven is a place we can have here on Earth, as Christian Science had taught us, why did I feel like I was living in hell and being tortured? Something wasn’t adding up for me. I wanted to be happy. My life was so off balance. After I left, and went through real psychiatric treatment, I can now say my life is truly at a good place and I am happy.

If Heaven is a place we can have here on Earth, as Christian Science had taught us, why did I feel like I was living in hell and being tortured?

The more I get Christian Science out of my system, the more happy I feel. I say: “get it out!”

Do current, practicing Christian Scientists want to hear what I have to say?
No. They really don’t. I tried to push my experience on them, but it turned them off. My family turned their back on me in a very painful way when I was pushing hard about leaving Christian Science. I have found a balance now, and they are back in my life. I stay mostly silent, and I have also had to stand up and let them know, “stop bringing up Christian Science, if I can’t talk with you about why I am out, I don’t want to hear about it constantly every time we get together, either.”

There’s so much more to life than just a belief in Christian Science! My experience has shown me that people who choose to be absolutely devoted to Christian Science let it consume them completely. I don’t see balance in their lives. It’s hard to just sit there and let them give me an onslaught of their Christian Science chatter.

 

ExCS: Do you have any previous writing experience?

Chrystal:

I was an English major at Principia College. I have wanted to be a published author for a very long time. My high school Creative Writing teacher told me my stories were excellent and she looked forward to me publishing at some point. This was the first book I have ever published, which has helped me understand the publishing world just a bit more. My future books, under my own name, will be coming very soon. I’m so excited to finally be a published author!

I am currently working on a 2nd Edition of the book, which will have much more graphic content about my healings. By the way, I consider Christian Science healings to actually be “untreated traumas.” My next steps with Cult Survivor are to get it into paperback form, and then in an audible form. Those will be coming.

I consider Christian Science healings to actually be “untreated traumas.”

 

ExCS: Is there anything else you would like to share about your book?

Chrystal:

Yes – actually. First off, you can read the book on your computer monitor if you like. You don’t need to have a Kindle device to read it! It’s portable and is easy to read on your phone or electronic tablet or computer. I will be turning it into a paperback as soon as I am able, maybe by early next year. 

I do want my story to get “out there” to help propel people out of the Christian Science belief system. I need more people to get out and I hope that will help propel my family to get out too. They sure don’t want to listen to me telling them to get out! My passion to get them out comes across as anger. No one wants to be yelled at, so I’m still working on that.

Thank you, Ex Christian Science blog, for giving me space here over the years to share my journey. Having this forum has helped me process the crazy thinking! I couldn’t have left so completely and so quickly if I hadn’t written about my experience and also gotten feedback from readers of the blog.

Thank you, readers of this blog, for reading and commenting. It helps those who post know that they are not alone.

I am so grateful for the Ex Christian Science community! We all get the unique kind of crazy and how it is dangerous.


ExChristianScience.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, this post contains affiliate links.

Praying about The Weather & Natural Disasters: An Ex Christian Science Perspective

wildfire in California

 The following are thoughts and notes on the current natural disasters that are hitting the globe, by Chrystal. 

To begin …

Well, first off, I just want to say these are sort of disjointed thoughts I’ve had over the years and I am still formulating my thoughts around these concepts. I guess the “uncovering” of random Christian Science thinking and trying to sort out what I believe and what I don’t believe. So, thank you for your patience when I type something disjointed like this blog post.

I look forward to reading your own thoughts and comments and stories in the comments below.

I started typing this post as our nation is recovering from Hurricane Harvey and we braced ourselves for Hurricane Irma. It always takes me a while to type these, think, edit, think some more, edit some more…. As I edit this paragraph, a 10th earthquake has hit Mexico in 6 days.

Deny strongly enough, then you will prove “it’s not real”

I am surrounded by climate change deniers. We have had so many weather disasters. So many. The turmoil on the continent where I live due to National Disasters …. is – for me – nearly unspeakable. All those people, and animals, and buildings and trees – destroyed. Turned to rubble.

I lived at Principia College when a major flood came through and destroyed the whole area. The flood lines are painted on that flour mill in Alton, Illinois.

All of this is heart-breaking to me. I grew up in a thought system that taught me to DENY EVERYTHING I can sense with my 5 senses

If you can see, hear, taste, touch, smell it – then IT’S NOT REAL. Only the things you CAN’T see, hear, taste, touch smell – only THOSE are real!

Christian Science teaches:”Be happy – constantly! No matter what you see, because the bad stuff isn’t real at all! Be happy it’s not real! Rejoice! Be glad!”  

Climate deniers:

I am done denying what’s RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. Been there, done that. Let’s get to work, people. Stop the blame and finger pointing. Be open to tough choices and difficult conclusions and difficult decisions.

Christian Scientists are taught that they can control the weather

I was long taught that we could “still the storm,” as Jesus supposedly did on that boat.

Jesus Calms the Storm

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”
36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him.
37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.
38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
– Mark 4: 35-41

And, to accompany the Jesus story, we have, of course, Mary Baker Eddy’s “demonstration” of it. Christian Science teaches children that Mary Baker Eddy once stilled a tornado:

Mrs. Eddy’s maid was working in the room where Mrs. Eddy was and all of a sudden it got very dark and it surprised her so much that she looked out of the window back of Mrs. Eddy and saw a most terrible storm. There were black clouds shaped like funnels rolling around and coming straight towards Mrs. Eddy’s home. She had never seen anything like it. Then she went out of the room about her work and when she came back in a short time afterwards, Mrs. Eddy said to her: “Have you looked out of the window?” No, she had not; but she did and there was all sunshine and clear sky. The storm had disappeared.

– A report of Mrs. Eddy’s healing work compiled by Arthur F. Fosbery, an early Christian Scientist.

My memory of being told another story is that Mary Baker Eddy had her household staff stand on her balcony and face a tornado without fear, and that it went back up in to the sky. It’s probably in one of those biographical books: “We Knew Mary Baker Eddy.”

Pray about the weather

I cannot possibly count how many times I’ve been told to pray about the weather because “someone is getting married that day!” Or that “it’s raining because it’s someone’s funeral and everyone is sad.” Or that “that’s the day of our Christian Science Lecture, pray for nice weather!” If the weather is something we can see and feel, why do we pray about it? It’s not real, you opposite loving people that deny everything logical and say that YOU’RE being the logical ones!

What about prayer?

Every time I turn around, I see more people sending prayers and good thoughts to people that are stuck in areas where a natural disaster is imminent, and for whatever reason, they are unable to evacuate. If you have read very much on this site, you will see that many of us have found that prayer does absolutely NOTHING practical, and many of our family members and friends have died thanks to having only prayer done for them, and nothing practical. This breaks our hearts! I think many of us are fine with the concept of prayer, frankly, but the use of prayer to the exclusion of all else – is dangerous!

The use of prayer to the exclusion of all else is dangerous!

That joke we have all heard

There is a story of a man on a roof and the flood waters are rising. Several attempts are made to save this man and get him to safety. The man ignores all the attempts and thinks a miracle will fall down from heaven and save him. The man eventually dies.

I feel like this describes Christian Scientists that refuse to evacuate when told to evacuate. “God will save me,” they say.

“Real” Legends:

House fire – everything burns except S&H and The Bible

I kid you not that I grew up being told a story of the time a fire struck a house of Christian Scientists. I was told “they were protected and weren’t home at the time.” When these people went back through the wreckage, “everything was destroyed.”

The only things that survived from the fire, unscathed, were their copies of The Holy Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, which had “fallen from the burned coffee table, to the floor of the house, and they weren’t even singed.” “Everything else was burned.”

I kid you not, this story was drilled in to me as a kid.

Dying in wildfires

I learned another story recently, many current day Christian Science folks corroborated it, too, some of whom knew the couple and heard they had died, but hadn’t been told how:

An older Christian Science couple refused to evacuate their house in California during wild fires. They were killed in the fire. These people were named, and the story was verified by people that knew the people, and knew the story.

Christian Science Camp

I heard a story about something that happened at a Christian Science camp from someone who was there at the time. The girls were on a camping trip, away from their cabins. They were sleeping on a hill above a river. I have personally observed the director of that camp praying extensively about the weather. He keeps a close watch on the weather with a radar.

I am certain the counselors and this director were praying about the weather, to know that it couldn’t possibly harm the girls, and that they could turn the storm.

Well, in the middle of the night (I want to say 3am), the director of the camp arrived in a camp vehicle, where the girls were sleeping. He told all of them to get up, bring their things, and get in the vehicle. As the last girl got in the vehicle, and closed the door, torrents of rain poured down all around them. The next morning, the area where the girls had been asleep was completely flooded.

These are stories Christian Scientists share with each other constantly, to talk about how they were “protected from the weather.” This is one way they share the concept that “Christian Science works.” If it works, why couldn’t he redirect the storm instead of watching on the storm radar, then rescuing them at the last minute? Why not trust the forecast a bit more and just reschedule the trip? Save everyone the bother of probably having wet sleeping bags when they got back to camp, and an interrupted night’s sleep?

That time I prayed about the weather

More than a decade ago, I was at an art festival in a major metropolitan city. At the time, I was on the path towards becoming a Journal-listed Christian Science Practitioner. Suddenly, out of no where, a torrential rain hit the festival. There were tents at the food court area, and everyone who could, crammed in under the tents. I remember being on the edge of the tent – it was shoulder-to-shoulder people.

I stood there, under the tent, water nearly pouring down my back. I was barely inside it, standing with my husband. I thought, “I can pray about this and end the storm.” (Seriously; I believed that.) But then I thought about all the plants and trees and things that desperately needed water. So, I decided to look at it from a different perspective. Immediately, I thought, “Who am I to try to end a storm?”

I had prayed in years past to understand “The Kingdom of Heaven” as being here, right now, all the time. So I decided to just see “The Kingdom of Heaven” right then, right there. I looked around and observed that whereas 15 minutes before, people had been at the food court, standing in line, ignoring each other, now they were all standing shoulder-to-shoulder, and a camaraderie from a shared experience started to form. People were laughing, joking, scooting over to let each other in. A game of frisbee even started up inside that tent.

I felt like I had witnessed a change in the weather – but in a new way! This was one of those “healings” that stuck with me for a long time and proved that “Christian Science works.”

In all honesty, I am not entirely sure what I think of this now, but it is something I have thought about a lot, over the years.

[Ok, as I continue editing this, I see how funny that is. I didn’t do anything at all, just standing there, watching people come together in a disaster or perceived disaster. Go, me! (Hopefully you’re laughing along with me now.)]

Some people, these days, might consider my experience “positive thinking.” Perhaps it is. It’s looking at what could be a miserable experience (wanting to see the art festival, and suddenly finding yourself stuck inside a tent with “a million” people in torrential rain), and seeing it in a new way – seeing it in a positive light.

Is this a form of prayer? I don’t know. Is it positive thinking? Yes. Is it a healing? I don’t know. It’s definitely a change in thought. I welcome your thoughts on this experience! Because I still don’t quite know what to make of this experience.

Peace, Be Still

I went to a Unity Church one time when I was still a Christian Scientist, working towards becoming Journal-listed. I was there for a Christian Science Monitor event. It was interesting to set foot in a Unity Church. I had never been to one before. One of the walls had the quote, “Peace, Be Still,” painted on it, in large dark blue letters. I sat there, reading those words, as I listened to this Christian Science Monitor presentation.

After the presentation was over, I went to the Unity Minister (a woman) and told her my experience in the torrential storm, and my own change of thought. She loved the story. I wonder if she is sharing that, right now, in her sermons when she talks about Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Jose … and what about the 6 days of Earthquakes that have been going on in Mexico? 6 days of Earthquakes in Mexico so far. Roll that around in your brain for just a moment. (I know by saying “brain,” every Christian Scientist reader just reminded themselves that “man is not made up of brain…” Hahaha! That’s my humor coming out.)

Question. — What is man?
Answer. — Man is not matter; he is not made up of brain, blood, bones, and other material elements.”

– Science and Health, p. 475: 5

I Believe the Earth is Trying to Heal Herself

My current belief system says that Mother Earth is trying to heal herself. She is literally flooding trying to cool herself off. The icebergs and glaciers are melting. Torrents of rain hit some places, severe drought hits other places. The planet is trying to balance itself out. This equates 100% to me to Stewardship, recycling, CO2 issues, methane gas from animal agriculture…

Thoughts on Recycling

You may or may not remember when I wrote about running a Vacation Bible School for Christian Science children with a friend. One time, when I was at her house, I noticed that she threw all of her recycling in to the trash can. I felt like this was such a contradiction to who she is as a person. I asked her as nicely as I could about it. She told me that sometimes she sneaks out recycling, but it really bothers her husband, so most of the time she can’t do it. Her husband believes that global warming is a hoax and so is recycling. He says if it wasn’t a hoax, then people would actually PAY for it, instead of having it be funded even partially by the government. Therefore, it’s a governmental hoax.

She also said, “besides, matter isn’t real.” Oh, right. I guess since I can see it and feel it, it’s not real. I simply cannot wrap my head around the Christian Science attitude that is so anti-recycling. They all have different reasons for it. But they all think it’s just not necessary. Genesis 1 in The Bible says God told us to take care of this planet. My dad constantly told me, “the first four words of the Bible are: ‘in the beginning God‘.” So I feel like this first chapter of Genesis is an important story, above all other stories, to Christian Scientists. And yet, they don’t honor the basic tenant that God told mankind to take care of the planet.

Where do we go from here?

I guess from my Ex Christian Science perspective, I feel that prayer alone is useless against the weather. Seriously. Get out of your closet. Unfold your hands. And go DO something. You think that riding your bike will help with global warming? It’s a drop in the bucket of what needs to be changed. Do some research on animal agriculture. Plant a vegetable garden. Try to eat local foods whenever possible. Think about how you might be able to reduce your trash (there is no “away” when you throw something away. It goes somewhere… it’s just no longer in your home). You can recycle a whole lot more than you think you can!

I guess I am thinking, as I type this and ponder the topic, that prayer alone about the weather doesn’t actually affect it. The Quaker in me says, “We need to talk about Stewardship. Let’s leave this world BETTER than we found it – not worse.”

And God saw the earth that he had made and said, “behold, it is very good.” Then man came along, and screwed it all the hell up. Can we affect the weather? Yes. Absolutely. Choices that we make every day affect the planet. Like the “butterfly affect.”

Let’s NOT “go in to our closet, shut the door and pray without ceasing.” Cease your prayers and do some serious thinking about how you can be a positive change for the world! If we all work together, we can accomplish something good! THAT’s how we change the weather for the better.


image via https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_disaster#/media/File:Wildfire_in_California.jpg

Chrystal’s Story: My Second Lump (Part 2)

Chrystal's Story header image

This is part of an on-going series, for all posts in this series see the tag Chrystal’s Story.


A note from Chrystal: I was born a fourth-generation Christian Scientist, and finally left the religion when I was in my 40s. In this blog series, I will do my best to share with you my 40+ year journey. I have done my best to make the journey sequential, but it’s also themed to a large extent, and sometimes it has been necessary to take things out of sequence to share a theme. 


My Second Lump (Part 2)

The following is a flashback to when I was nearing the end of my branch church membership, with a problem that had spanned more than a decade of my life:

The growing lipoma on my back was now causing so much pain to my neck, that I couldn’t straighten my head for a few days at times. And, of course, being in Christian Science, I couldn’t take Advil to even relieve the pain. I remember walking around with tears in my eyes over the amount of pain I was in, and hiding in my house. I was raised to hide in my house when I was in pain. How can a community reach out to help you, when you’re hiding in your house? I remember a Mormon woman who lived in my neighborhood, and for some reason socially, she stopped by my house and we had a little visit, and I couldn’t straighten my head up that day. She so lovingly said to me, “that looks really painful.” I assured her I was fine, that it had happened before, and I would be fine soon. I was NOT fine! I couldn’t straighten my head, I had tears in my eyes, and if I tried to move my head in any way, I would cry out in incredible pain! I remember the love in her eyes. She was genuinely concerned for my well-being, and she was only a neighbor; I know now that if I ever needed someone to help me, and I called her, I know she would be there for me, even though I wouldn’t consider us “friends.” She was my neighbor and she has genuine love in her heart for humanity.

After a decade of praying with various practitioners (including my Teacher) about the lump, I remember feeling discouraged. I was so discouraged. I would rally myself and pray again. Because Christian Scientists are supposed to “yield not to discouragement.”

Individuals are consistent who, watching and praying, can “run, and not be weary; . . .walk, and not faint,” who gain good rapidly and hold their position, or attain slowly and yield not to discouragement. God requires perfection, but not until the battle between Spirit and flesh is fought and the victory won. – “Science and Health,” p. 254

Christian Scientists are taught that “discouragement makes the problem worse, and makes it harder to heal.” So I prayed. I payed practitioners to pray. I payed my Teacher to pray.  

I would see the 2 ladies at my second branch church who had the growths on them that were more pronounced, and I didn’t want to end up like that. Mine, at least, I could hide by wearing a patterned shirt. They couldn’t hide theirs any longer, no matter how they tried. I felt so sorry for them, to not be able to hide their problem any longer. And then I would chastise myself for thinking such things. I wanted to hug them and say, “I have a lump too, but I can hide mine,” but for someone to speak up & say, “I see your problem and I want to support you and share love with you” is verboten in the Christian Science culture. Speaking up about it makes it “more real.” Because by not speaking, it’s “not real.”

Our voice is given so much power in Christian Science. Apparently, just talking can do many things – it can make lumps grow, it can cause fevers, poison ivy, infectious diseases. It can ruin vacations, it can rain fire and brimstone on a bad church member. I am positive they believe words can kill, so they won’t speak unless it is cheerful, superficial, happy nonsense. I am wondering if I believe it is this sort of thing that drives people completely insane. (Denying our very existence, to our core. How can it keep us sane and normal if we deny 100% of our humanity?)

At some point, probably a year after my wonderful success with the “Church Alive” experience, I decided it was time to get this lump removed from my shoulder, by a medical doctor. It had gone on long enough. My arm would go to sleep for 45 minutes at a time, and I couldn’t wake it up. And that didn’t feel good to me. (It scares me a lot now that I am out of Christian Science and someone pointed out that this was pushing on a nerve, and it’s a good thing I didn’t have to lose my whole arm!) I voluntarily pulled my name out of “The Christian Science Journal.” (This means I was no longer a Journal Listed Christian Science Practitioner. I wasn’t kicked out or anything; I chose to do this for my own reasons. I left on good terms and was told I could come back within 6 months if I wanted, if it was longer than that, I would have to apply from scratch again.)

Then, began the guilt. Oh, the guilt. And I had no one to talk to about it. I had to suffer with my guilt at having “failed.” I had failed to heal it. I had failed to have enough faith. I had failed to pray enough. I had failed all the Practitioners that had prayed for me over the last 5+ years.

I know all the words to victim blame myself, and I made liberal use of all of them. Then, of course, I probably entered the depression that had probably started but been bulldozed over by “Knowing the Truth” and “Getting on with things I had to do anyway.” So I dealt with depression and guilt with the only way I knew how: by denying them. For months. I think it took me about 8 months to get over the guilt, and I finally started trying to find a doctor. (At this point, I was now a Sunday School teacher at the Unity Church.)

Now, someone who grew up going to doctors, might know where to start when looking for a doctor. But this was all brand new to me. I didn’t know how to find a doctor. (The doctor who removed my first lump, wasn’t covered by our new insurance.) I didn’t know what kind of doctor I wanted. It took me many months to find one. And of course, you can’t just walk in and say, “remove this please.” They had to send me to another doctor for a sonogram to look at it. Then results had to be done up. Then I had to have a consultation. Then I had to go to the operation. I was put under for the procedure (that was my choice – because the pain of the much smaller lump had been unbearable to me, and I couldn’t go through that again). I think this was in 2011. Then I had so many follow up appointments. The lump was far bigger than I had anticipated, and than he had anticipated. I have keloids in my back with basically means, “aggressive scar tissue,” and this scar on my back continues to grow and cause me pain years later. I consider this scar to be my “scar of leaving Christian Science.” Maybe someday I will wear it proudly. At this point, I still hide it under clothing. (I know of people getting tattoos to symbolize leaving the Christian Science church. I didn’t have to get a tattoo. I have my very real scar on my material body.)

I wish that was the end of my story of leaving Christian Science. That would wrap it all up, neat and tidy. But, of course, a 44 year story and it doesn’t just end there. And it’s now 2016 as I type this.

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6 Weeks to a Quaker (the first go-round)

I grew up as a church goer, and when I don’t attend, it feels like I have a “void” in my life. So I tried a local Quaker church. It was about 10 miles away, but traffic made it take about 40 minutes to get there on a Sunday morning. I took my oldest son with me to the Meetings, and I enjoyed them immensely. Here were people who cared about the environment. One person was a beekeeper and I loved that! Several were gardeners, and some were activists or worked as volunteers either in Peace Corps or in Africa, setting up a school to teach children. I loved everything about this church. I made my homemade applesauce for potluck, and I was instantly accepted as one of these people.

After about 4 weeks of attending, I called up my family and told them, “I am a Quaker now!” I think my own family thinks I am changeable and whack-a-doo, so they took it in stride. I also called a gal from my Association who completely and lovingly supported me (she left our Association the following year & converted to Judaism), and I called our Teacher who asked me, “what’s appealing about the Quaker church?” I told her I liked sitting in the Silence, and how that brought me peace and calm for several days after in my life. After that, she told our Association (an Association is an annual meeting of the students taught by the Teacher, and guests the Teacher welcomes too) to try to meditate for 20 minutes every day.

My 6th Sunday in a row attending at The Quaker Meeting was potluck Sunday. I asked the lady next to me what it took to join the church. She told me, “well, you’re assigned some people to make sure you are spiritually growing.” I hadn’t yet felt like I was leaving Christian Science; I was just leaving the branch church, and I still wanted my own Bible and my copy of Science and Health. Her comment made me so uncomfortable, I couldn’t return to the church. I blamed the traffic. It was so far away, even though it really wasn’t; traffic just made it feel so much more far away. I started visiting other kinds of churches.

If you would just pray about it…

By Susanna, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor. Susanna is a pseudonym, to ensure anonymity.

As I’ve grown into adulthood and approached mid-life and motherhood, I have become much clearer on how my Christian Science upbringing has shaped my feelings about myself, my body, and my sense of self-reliance and trust.

It started when I realized how deep my denial was when something seemed wrong with me, either emotionally or physically. How I stuffed it back down, lied about it, felt ashamed, and couldn’t even talk to my family about it. Then, I thought about the silence on the other end of the phone when I mentioned to a Christian Scientist relative that I wasn’t feeling well, or that I’d had a falling out with a friend, or even that I had a leaky pipe or car trouble. Anything that was less than perfect just wasn’t acknowledged, and I could feel the unspoken accusations: “If you would just pray about it…” I knew that my family had struggles of their own, but that they hid them from me and suffered the same guilt and isolation that I did.

I’m conflicted because I feel sympathy for people still caught in the web of Christian Science thought. It alienates them from human emotions, life experiences, and their bodies. I want to help them and I hope that this project reaches them. Over my first 30 years of life, I came to associate illness with shame and failure, and to feel betrayed by my body when it didn’t live up to perfection.

But, I’ve learned that when I am anxious, usually it’s my body telling me that I need to get something done, or work something out, or let go of something that I’m hanging on to unnecessarily. Instead of stuffing it down, or feeling ashamed, I listen to it and address whatever needs addressing. Sometimes it’s taking it easy for a few days, or making sure I eat well and exercise and take care of myself, or spending some time with my husband or a good friend. I’m not angry at my body for not being perfect. I love it and what it does for me. I love myself and the people around me who love me and take care of me. I let them take care of me.

Things aren’t perfect, and never will be, and it is okay. Though I wish I could help my parents out of this prison of perfection.

Rachel’s Story

PLEASE NOTE: The following post contains content that may make some readers uncomfortable. 

By Rachel, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor. ‘Rachel’ is a pseudonym, to ensure anonymity.


I was a fifth generation Christian Scientist. Having grown up in a family involved with Christian Science for multiple generations, I can see patterns now, passed down through family stories; patterns from the very first family members to join Christian Science. The things that happened to me in my childhood were probably going to happen to me regardless. But the incidents would not have been handled in the manner that they were if not for the fact that our family were Christian Scientists.

I was sick so much as a kid with diseases I was not vaccinated against. I had every kind of measles that you can have, and the mumps. The ear infections were horrible and one of my most prominent memories of childhood. I don’t think my mom knew what an ear infection was. My dad did insist that I have the polio vaccine—I’m so grateful for that. And no one ever made me feel guilty for being sick, or berated me. Christian Science taught me how to do that all by myself. Continue reading “Rachel’s Story”

Do Not Grieve, There is Nothing to Grieve About

The following is a collection of contributions from members of the Ex-Christian Science collective about how death is ‘handled’ in Christian Science.

 

I have found Christian Science’s ‘do not grieve, there’s nothing to grieve about’ instruction to be particularly damaging. It leads those who have lost loved ones to feel ashamed—the deeper the love, the greater the shame. And it leads others to ignore grief in the guise of pretending that it doesn’t exist. We’re providing prayerful support to the grieving person so we don’t have to, you know, acknowledge the loss or do anything practical to help.

– Anonymous



I think I remember one memorial service from when I was young that may or may not have been for a Christian Scientist. But, generally people just didn’t show up at church anymore and nobody ever asked. Why would you mourn someone? What does it matter that they’re dead? Christian Science tears apart the human psyche. It devalues and denies the empathy and compassion that makes us human.

– Heidi


A woman I knew from the local Christian Science branch church, who was about three years older than I was, suddenly vanished. I asked my Christian Scientist mother about her and got double-talk. Later I was alone with my non-Christian Scientist father and he told me she had appendicitis and was under the care of a practitioner, and her appendix burst and she died. When I asked my mother about it she told me, “people are dying in hospitals all the time!”

– Anonymous

 

I maintained appearances in order to please my parents

By Tessa, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group Contributor. Tessa is a pseudonym, to ensure anonymity.

 

I stayed with Christian Science out of family loyalty and guilt for decades, eventually living a dual life—the one I lived in front of my parents and the one I lived when I was apart. I lived that double life out of fear and a superstitious belief that maybe Christian Scientists were right all along and if I stopped believing in it I would be cursed. But most of all, I maintained appearances in order to please my parents. There were a bunch of us kids, and I always felt that being a Christian Scientist was a requirement for being approved of and loved. I had a nagging feeling that I was loved less because I wasn’t a good Christian Scientist.

I “came out” in bits and pieces over the years, but the incident in which I truly showed them that I was not a part of their religion was at the ripe age of 42 when I invited them for Thanksgiving dinner at a friend’s house. I asked my boyfriend to bring wine and instead of either not drinking in front of my parents or sneaking drinks in the kitchen, I offered them ginger ale and then loudly asked my boyfriend to pour me a glass of red. It seems like an insignificant thing, and most people I know would never understand what it took for me to do it. It took a lot of courage. It felt fantastic enjoying wine with my meal without guilt. I felt like a weight was lifted off of me.

I once wrote an article for the local paper after a major brewery swooped in to buy our local cottage brewery. I wanted to show the difference between a local brew and one from a large corporate-run company and interviewed people in the community, including a brewer. I got everyone to take a taste test. My mother, always a fan of my writing, read the article and said, “oh, but you didn’t taste the beers of course!” She said it like it was fact, even though in the article I included my thoughts on the taste of both beers. Denial was ever present.

For all the problems I had with my parent’s beliefs, they were right there for me when I went into premature labour at 23 weeks gestation. They visited me in the hospital and did not bat an eye at the IV drip or the nurses or doctors. They were kind and accepting of my needs for the medical world. When my son was born a week later, 24 weeks and 520 grams, they came to visit him, donned gowns, scrubbed up, and sat by his incubator. Sure, they prayed in their CS way, but they also accepted my beliefs, including giving my son his inhaler treatments when they babysat him.